Tioga State Forest – Sand Run Falls – 7.1 miles

5/14/2021 Sand Run Falls trail – Mid State trail

Elevation gain: 614 ft

Location: Arnot rd. Wellsboro, PA 16901 (Latitude: 41.682667, Longitude: -77.153025)

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We are driving up to the Finger Lake region in NY for the weekend to hang out with Team Danger on Watkins Glen raceway so I’ve figured might as well enjoy some hiking while in the area. I was looking for trails closer to the interstate and Tioga State Forest stood out.

This particular trail on Arnot rd. is a hidden gem and only about 10 minutes from I15. There are three trailheads and only two cars in the parking area when we pull up. While getting Mag ready one car leaves, giving us a good chance of having this portion of Tioga State Forest to ourselves. Yayyyy!

We start out on the left side of the info board towards South. Since there are several splits in the trail from the beginning we lose our ways almost instantly. GPS has a hard time showing us the right direction when we move slowly. I figure we will eventually get back on Sand Run Falls trail so we keep on going. The trail otherwise very well maintained but seems like it mostly busy with bike traffic.

Since the weather got warmer we have been experiencing lots of bugs and mosquitoes. Pesky tiny flies are the biggest nuisance. However, I try to concentrate on the beauty around us and turn my attention to the small white flowers littering the ground. It turns out they are dwarf ginger plants. Who knew? Gorgeous Trilliums pop up all over as well.

Dwarf Ginger, Painted Trillium, ?, Partridgeberry

After looping around for about a half a mile, following right turns at every ‘intersection’, we end up at this marker. Someone who knows the confusing maze of trails around here made a sharpie direction towards the falls on stake #3. We are following it….

These stakes are for bikers, I think

I can definitely see more bike tracks than foot prints here and there are also these tiny bridges over even tinier creeks or more like water runoffs.

After getting back to our target trail we turn left on it, following the red paint markings, heading towards the falls. At stake #5 and #6 we are keeping to the left.

It is so quiet here! I wish we could have our house in a setting like this. The trail just lazily winds between slim, tall trees, giving Mag plenty of time to sniff every piece of grass there is. Meanwhile, I enjoy the serenity and the only thing that cuts through it ever so often, the laugh of my old friend, the pileated woodpecker.

Soon enough we come across a marshy area – after our first descent – hiking parallel to a deer fence. The valley is very muddy and swampy and the now elevated path shortcuts through it. We follow this instead of the original north trail marked on AllTrails. The path is made out of huge rocks and cement, bordered with boggy grass….

…. and huge, overturned roots of once majestic trees. Both colors, red and blue are painted on different surfaces here until we catch up with Sand Run trail on the other side of the mire. At the next marker we turn left again, leaving the fence behind, following the promising sign towards the falls.

Within 0.4 miles we keep to the left again and start a longer but gradual descent hoping that at the end of it we shall see the waterfall.

This stretch is about a mile long and as we proceed, water chiming becomes more pronounced. I get a bit excited when we come across a small brook but jumping over it steers us away from the stream. The next half a mile is very pretty, running between a rocky, hilly area on our left and the little creek further down on the right. At mile 3 it’s swells up, taking over a bigger portion of the now lower grade slope.

Crossing it again finally takes us to the last signs and low rumbling promises the view of the waterfalls. My first reaction is that it is kind of small but still very pretty. Mag poses for a few shots and after crackling on a branch in the middle of the water we take off.

I am hopeful to see if the trail loops around underneath the falls….

To my surprise the main attraction is just ahead of us and it is absolutely beautiful! We are still above Sand Run but ahead of is the “real” rapid, about 40 ft high. Since it’s partially covered with vegetation as we approach I cannot take a frontal pic. The trail widens than comes up on top of it so we perch on a flat boulder, looking down on the cascade.

Two rivers meet here, Sand Run and Babb Creek to become Pine Creek which flows into West Branch Susquehanna River just above Lock Haven further down south.

I would love to make it across to see it from another angle but we are running out of time.

If we want to make it back to the car and then to the track by 5:30 we have to leave immediately. It’s half past three so we have two hours to get out of here and drive up to Watkins Glen. We wave farewell to the wonders of Sand Run while I am already making plans in my head to return here.

Backtracking a bit will take us to the last markers we’ve encountered, where we keep left now, towards the unknown. It gets very muddy for several hundred feet than clears out. All runoffs are heading to the river, making this portion swampy. We are on the orange – a.k.a. Mid State trail by the way.

This approximately 3.5 mile portion is almost a straight shot back to our car but on the map it looks more like a curve of a bow. I am pushing a little bit harder than usual because of our time restriction but at one point I have to admit we will not make it. We’ll have another opportunity to walk Watkins Glen raceway with our crew.

Half way back we encounter our first set of humans, four ladies headed to the falls in a comfortable pace. They must be locals….

In about 10 more minutes another person emerges from the woods towards us and after a short step aside we leave him behind too. It is so quite here that I hear every little rustling in the groundcover. This time the sound comes from a pair of mating blister beetles (Meloe violaceus) or commonly called oil beetles. They release oily droplets of hemolymph from their joints when disturbed.

The other sound that catches my attention is coming from nearby Sand Run but the water stays mostly invisible behind the tree-line. Seldom peaks through, running parallel to the trail, even beyond our target location of the parking area. Before we reach it, our path becomes sort of a divider in the middle of a hill. River down below, hill up above on our right. Getting closer to Arnot rd. becomes obvious when I start hearing passing by vehicles on the paved surface. This map at the trailhead marks the end of our journey.

We parked a few hundred feet in on the off-road driveway and the view of our car is a welcomed sight for both of us. Mag jumps up right away and plops down. He knows it’s time to check for bugs. Ticks in particular. I carry a small jar with water to dispose of them if found. I don’t like the idea of releasing them back in the woods.

Here is our trail map:

Since we are not now in a hurry to get to our destination, I drive in a comfortable pace. Our rented bungalow for the weekend is awesome and as it turns out it is close to several waterfalls.

For dinner we head over to our friend’s rented house located on beautiful Seneca Lake. The sunset is not too shabby from here.

Even though I had plans for another hike on Saturday and the trail I’ve found is dreamy, our hike was cut short. Mag suffered a minor injury 2 weeks ago while doing our routine evening walk and yesterday’s trip opened up the wound. We were able to do 1 mile in but his limping was so pronounced I’ve decided to turn back.

We ended up on the racetrack, hanging out with the guys but sitting still is not my thing. ‘The Glen’ is sitting on 550 acres so we take a slow stroll. I climb up on one of the huge grandstands to take some pics while Mag enjoys the AC in the car.

Well deserved sleeping in on our last day is a given….

Before we hit the road we must chase those famous waterfalls this region is famous for. Unfortunately Watkins Glen State Park is closed at Rainbow Falls for the season – opens May 31. But there are other gorgeous cascades within reach.

Across from our bungalow is this beauty:

Deckertown Creek Falls

Montour Falls historic district hides this gem:

And while heading out of town Montour Falls or Aunt Sarah’s Falls waves us goodbye.

Montour Falls

Such an amazingly beautiful area this is and so much more to discover! We’ll be back in July to continue. Hope you’ll be back to read about it.

But I mostly hope to see you out there, discovering for yourself. But remember!

Sugarloaf Mountain – The loop – 10.3 miles

5.1.2021 – East View – Mountain Loop trail (white) – Saddleback Horse trail (yellow) – Purple trail – Northern Peaks trail (blue) – Mt. Ephraim Rd. – Saddleback Horse trail – Mountain Loop trail – Noname path shortcut to parking

Elevation gain: 1467 ft

Location: 7902 Comus rd. Dickerson, MD 20842

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Originally I’ve planned to hike around Harpers Ferry but parking is inconvenient so I’ve decided Friday evening to change our plans. I wanted to see my hubby and the gang at Summit Point Racetrack after our hike. It didn’t seem too far to hop back in the car and drive out. Plans can change tho….

It took us an hour and change to get to Sugarloaf with lovely scenery from I70. Make sure you have at least $5 on you before entering the property, visitors encouraged to contribute to the nonprofit corporation which owns the land. Stronghold Inc. was organized in 1946 by Gordon Strong. He and his wife purposefully gained ownership of the many tracts making up the present property prior to their death. Sugarloaf has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark supported by a modest trust fund, membership dues and gifts from visitors after entering the gate. I took a very helpful map of the trails and a welcome template as well.

The drive to the spacious (175 spaces) East parking area is about a mile, through a one way serpentine road. Drive slow, there are several trail crossings and hairpin turns.

Azaleas leading the way

Get here early enough to beat the crowds and in the summer months, and the even more annoying flies. Starting out from the East view parking I made sure to take at least a few shots of lovely Monocacy Valley below. The mountain’s highest point is at 1282 ft.

Buzzard in the middle

We quickly hop on the white trail or Mountain Loop and take the first right towards South just after about a hundred feet to hike the longest route. While approaching our turn I eavesdrop on two girls behind us mentioning Budapest and get into a small conversation with them. Turns out one of them also have a page and I make a mental note to check it out. Hikers/bloggers unite!

At the turn

The surroundings are already reminding me of Catoctin Mountain (blog post 4/25/2020). Steep downhill, with lots of rocks and roots bordered with the now almost bare Mountain Laurel bushes, just before flowering.

Where the white trail crosses Sugarloaf Mountain rd. we continue down (left) on the paved surface through the hairpin turn. The yellow trail starts from out of nowhere and we have to proceed this way to get to it. Since it’s after 9 am, cars are more frequent and I am sure filling all 3 parking areas quickly.

Yellow trailhead

Saddleback Horse trail or yellow trail is a very spacious beautifully shaded path starting out parallel to Sugarloaf Mountain rd. There are lots of hidden treasures on the ground so don’t just get mesmerized by the beauty of tall trees.

We don’t encounter any but these woods are also home to the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead as well. Look but do not touch!

A Pileated woodpecker however is easy to be heard from a mile and even tho they’re harder to spot, their “handy work “ is all around us.

One of these mohawked, magnificent birds is teasing me yet again with his loud “laugh” on our right then flies across in front of us and lands on the other side of a tree, staying out of my sight.

Further up the road we have to stump through a few muddy patches and a small brook. It is lazily moving along to join other small streams in the area to get to Little Bennett creek. I almost step on a gorgeous green frog and make him cancel his sunbathing session, splashing into the water.

Springy froggy

We encounter the first fellow hiker at around mile 3 with her miniature schnauzer. It’s easy for her to pick up the small dog before he starts yapping. I need chicken to distract Mag before he shows his Dr. Jekyll side.

Through our hike we come across several funky looking trees….

…and pretty little hearts for my ongoing art project, heART by Eva.

That’s a nice one!

We are at about elevation 500 ft at the lowest and after climbing the hill we are at about 820 ft. Even flying creatures take a brake after an ascend like this.

Common gray moth?

While another woodpecker hammering a tree close by we walk out to an open area. A Red Shouldered Hawk takes off from a low stump and disappears into the woods. On the other side of the clearing modest downhill starts, leading us to a five trail intersection. Slackers (😉) cutting through Northern Peaks trail to White Rocks towards the west meanwhile we leave the crowds behind, following the Purple trail.

new life

This 1.6 mile detour to White Rocks is relaxing and serene until a huge boom sounds somewhere. I don’t know if there’s a quarry nearby or a shooting range. It startles both of us a bit until my attention turns towards shooing away many annoying horseflies. Trying to speed them off propels us to the overlook in record time but we don’t make it out to see the view. I don’t count but about 30 people are already on the rocks. I pass on the opportunity to see the panorama and we quickly proceed to the blue trail.

Encounters with other fellow hikers are more frequent from here to Mt. Ephraim rd. (6.8 miles into the loop) where taking a short break at Bear branch is a must to refuel Mag.

Following the paved road for a few hundred feet until the trail divides into blue and yellow. We keep marching on the yellow to our right. I have removed my hoodie long ago but I am glad I was wearing another long sleeved shirt underneath. We hit another swarm of small, biting flies.

After crossing Mt. Ephraim rd. once more we come across a sign for a Stewardship Demonstration Forest. Within this pretty big area are several other markings providing visitors with a visual representation of common forest harvest practices.

The alley of trees on this long stretch is just wonderful.

Coming across another pitstop at Furnace branch to Mag’s delight. Drinking and splashing in streams are his favorite things when hiking. After the brook, the path becomes wilder with rocks and boulders. We get another destruction in the form of a chopper, it sounds like it’ll land on top of our heads. Trying to look on my flight radar app to see what’s going on but no avail.

We have been also chasing a couple with a dog. They been slowing us down. Thankfully just in time I notice this Pink Lady Slipper. My day is absolutely made!

Right next to the slipper was two skinny stems with these flowers. It seems like some sort of azalea….

Dwarf Azalea?

After my delightful discovery and a sudden left turn we merge with Mountain Loop trail. The bottom of it runs parallel to the main, one way road exiting the property. Close by is the private Strong Mansion and Westwood Mansion. While passing a small picnic area and the entrance building, Mag takes several rolls in the cool grass.

I make him hurry up a bit since there are people behind us. We quickly get back on the last portion of the white trail even tho there is always time for a photo.

On the last small section we follow an unofficial portion to cut through to the parking area. It is a bit steeper but drops us off almost at our car. Parking is packed to the gills and cars are still pulling in even so it’s already 1:30 pm. By the time I wipe off Mag and check him for bugs it’s 2 o’clock. I am hungry and tired….

Here is our recorded map:

I know I won’t be able to get hold of my hubby while he is on the track so I txt him that we are heading home. It would take me another hour to get to Summit but in that time I could be home eating some lunch. It settled then….we are heading home.

East view sign
Pooped poppy

Highly recommend this gorgeous and long hike. Get out there and do some exploring. Take care!

Thank you for reading!

Lake Elkhorn Park – Lake Elkhorn Trail – 2.3 miles

4/24/2021 West side, Parking lot A – Trail around the lake

Location: Broken Land Pkwy, Columbia, MD 21045

Elevation gain: 66ft

🧤

The weather hasn’t been kind to us on the weekends this year so our posts are scarce. Mostly rain or snow but freezing temperatures have been also sabotaging our longer hikes to explore new trails.

We walk at least 2 miles a day but I usually only blog about walks or hikes we haven’t done yet. I found today’s destination by chance last year and have been waiting for a decent day to check it out.

Lake Elkhorn is a 37 acre reservoir, Columbia’s third and largest lake. The path was built in ‘82 and is an easy and virtually elevation free paved trail.

I knew it could be crowded because of the close proximity to civilization so we got up at 6 am to get there around 7. Parking lot A is smallish – spaces for less than 30 cars – and I could not find a parking lot B. Last year I’ve parked in Hopewell Park on Rustling Leaf because the community pool was closed for the season. That could be parking lot B.

Even tho I don’t need a jacket this morning but gloves are a must since it’s still around 40 degrees. We are starting out on the north side of the lake following the trail clockwise. Our walk couldn’t start out more picturesque with Lake Elkhorn Dam on our right.

Even those townhouses couldn’t ruin the view. Crossing a beautiful wooden bridge is necessary since the tiny creek is in a hurry to join Little Patuxent River close by.

Since the park is extremely well maintained and clean, there are small litter kits on the bridge to encourage people to do their part in keeping it clean. It is obviously also dog friendly and I’ve seen several poop stations throughout the 2 mile trail.

We couldn’t resist to one of the benches provided to sit and enjoy the view and to add to Mag’s benched series. He loves doing this (doesn’t show on this pic). All benches are dedicated in memory of people by family and friends.

Passing by the townhomes we take a minute on the lookout platform to spy on a pray bird. He is sitting on top of the fence on the other side of dam (too far to take pic). The view is gorgeous but the waking sun’s reflection ruins my take. Farther up the trail….

Lots of people are walking their dogs so we stop frequently and wait for them to pass. Mag has been behaving, I am very impressed that he left his Cujo side at home. From the dam to the wooden docks we walk right along the townhomes. I think I’ve just found parking lot B! There is another small parking area here. We could put our kayaks in, play chess or sunbathe.

Closer to the homes is a rain garden and up on the small hill a playground and off course fantastic views of the lake. Under the docks in the corner several “bubblers” moving the water to keep it healthy. Mag thinks they’re suspicious….

While the trail winds through a small wooded area, educating the passersby of the different species of trees….

….we walk towards one of the covered lookouts. All the views are magnificent around here. Lots of trees and bushes are in bloom: dogwoods, blackhaws, honeysuckles, redbuds.

Blackhaw

People are walking, running, fishing but everything seems to have a slower pace. Time is standing still it seems.

This gorgeous Gray Heron is sitting next to the path looking at Mag like “You are a weird grey heron, bud!” until a jogger scares him away.

I have been taking so many wonderful photos! I wish I could share them all. Here is just one. Just such an idyllic setting.

We even run into a Canada Geese family trotting across the path with 6 chicks! Dad is very protective off course. Soooo fluffy and cute! We circle around them even tho most people are less than six feet away from them on the paved path. I guess they are used to us.

At the east corner of the lake there are plenty of lily pads closer to shore but still no signs of frogs and other critters. We find another boat ramp than have to cross the second bridge over the swampier side and turn right to walk the south side, back to our starting point.

The trail runs just a bit farther from the water here, tall trees providing plenty of shade. All the way through, padded with mulch are exercise equipments to help keep us in shape.

There are tiny ‘fishermen paths’ still taking us down to the lake and I actually doubt that anyone could ever take a bad photograph here.

View of the townhomes

I am blown away by the beauty and serenity of this man made Lake! Kind of even feeling guilty to blog about it except that my blog is not too popular so it’ll be fine.

We are just enjoying this beautiful setting by sitting Mag up on a sizable boulder with the north docks in the background.

Did you say chikin?

At the west side we cannot miss the main pavilion with a water fountain and a bike rack. It’s looking over a long kayak ramp/dock and the stony edge of the dam.

A smaller red roofed pavilion is sitting pretty on the bottom of the hill, inviting people from the parking area to sit and marvel.

Unfortunately we are at the end of this wonderfully beautiful walk. I am sure will be back to merge ourselves again into the beauty of Lake Elkhorn.

Here is our map:

P.S.: our little gourd houses are getting occupied again this year! Wrens are moving in…. and our first hummingbird of the season arrived on the 17th! Movies attached in a separate post.

Keep hiking y’all!

Picture post – Mag’s 5th birthday

Gunpowder Falls State Park – 4.18 miles

To celebrate MAG’s fifth birthday I convinced my hubby to come and hike with us in one of our favorite spots within Gunpowder Falls State Park (several earlier posts can be found if you look back). I was also trying to find my favorite pair of gloves “left hand” on a non existent trail we’ve hiked 3 months ago. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful but I hiked up to the dam while Mag and hubby waited for me on a boulder in the middle of the river. We’ve all had a blast even though we got a bit hot by the end. Temperature changes are significant from morning to the afternoon in the spring.

Gorgeous Gunpowder Falls
Whale boulder
A zen moment
Rapids
Birthday boy
Prettyboy dam
Roundlobe Hepatica
Bloodroot
Anyone knows what this is?
“Barking up a tree” – Flickr acct Mag Zilla
Need to rest now!

My 20 year Anniversary!

Thank you America!

Today is my 20th anniversary of arriving in the USA. Most women associate this date with International Women’s Day around the globe but for me it will always be the first day to my new beginning. Even tho it wasn’t my first time to set foot on American soil it was officially the last time as a Hungarian citizen.

My humble beginning started in New Hampshire but after three months I got transferred to a job where I mainly babysit English Bulldogs….Emily, Maddie and Woowoo, here in Baltimore. For an animal lover like me that is a dream job! I will never forget them!

I am also extremely grateful to Stephanie and Richard Johnston who took me in and trusted me. Actually thinking of them today made me write this post to see if it would be possible to find them….the web is pretty wild like that. They may be living in Arizona now.

I have met my husband of 18+ years through Stephanie and I had a pretty fabulous time looking after those #snorefactory-wrinkled-lazy-lovebugs.

It is pretty mind boggling that it has been twenty years. Sounds like an eternity. Since there are no do overs in life, I have no regrets.

Just wanted to say thank you to all who shaped my journey.

That’s all. Thank you for reading!

I dedicate this heART to Woowoo….

P.S.: I’ll work on two more hearts for Emily Mama and Maddie ❤️.

Quiet Waters Park – Bike path and beyond – 5.2 miles

1/17/2021 Red Maple Pavilion – Bike path south – Wildwood trail – noname trail to beach – Harness Creek trail – shortcut to avoid people to two more beaches – Holly Pavilion heading back – Quiet Waters Park road – back to Bike path north – Red Maple Pavilion

Elevation gain: 180.4 ft

Location: 600 Quiet Waters Park rd. Annapolis, MD 21403

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I have found this gem two years ago when we were looking for dog beaches. It’s a very popular, wonderful, dog friendly park with a designated small dog beach that can get super crowded in the summer.

On a day like this – in the dead of winter – it offers more space and less people. Even tho it’s colder than what my husband prefers, he came along with us. I will try to walk the whole perimeter of the park with him but will not hold my breath….

We are right on the Chesapeake Bay but a closer look reveals that the beaches are in Harness Creek that connects to South River.

We are starting out from one of the closest parking areas to the entrance. By the way this park has an entrance fee (few dollars). However it is kept clean with several large pavilions (Red Maple, Sycamore, White Oak, Dogwood, Holly), grilling opportunities, a Concert Stage, lots of picnic benches and small beaches.

Beautiful day if you ask me

The Bike Path is paved, however there are hiking trails beyond it, through the forest, closest to the water. Unfortunately we miss our first opportunity just before White Oak pavilion to make our loop longer and to enjoy the views of Old Pace Cove.

Have no fear, there is another cut off after the Blue Heron Center, called Wildwood Trail.

I’ve counted three small wooden bridges on the path crossing over teeny-tiny brooks. There are two educational displays as well, teaching about compost….one is here where we take Wildwood trail.

Look at this wonderful view at the end of the trail.

Harness Creek

Continuing on Harness Creek trail would take us to the Boat Rental building but somehow it feels crowded so we cut through, cutting off about three tenths of a mile. We are rewarded with magical views.

Even tho I try to convince my hubby to take the time and walk down to the dog beach, we end up cutting our loop short. Instead of turning right to reach the southern most point of the park we turn left, heading towards the Visitor Center.

Turkey tail?, Sycamore love knot, Trout Lily leaf, Sweetgum pod

We also miss the nearby dog park, situated in the next turn heading towards the South River. However, we come across a few doggies while marching towards the small man made lake next to the main buildings. It’s a very relaxing and inviting atmosphere in nice weather we would sit on one of the benches to enjoy the sounds.

After catching back up to the Bike path on the right we continue north just enjoying our time here, walking slow. This also gives Mag plenty of opportunities to smell every living thing in his path.

After passing the Gate house in the middle we stroll another three tenths of a mile to the very beginning of the park. The path loops back towards the south, taking us back to our starting point. Since this is the actual origin of the path the park’s rules are posted here.

In about a half a mile later we are back to our vehicle. Checking Mag for ticks is a must and we also make sure he is well hydrated.

Here is our action map.

Driving home takes us about an hour and after picking up food Mag hits the snooze button. Rest well deserved!

Pooped puppy

Gunpowder Falls State Park – Masemore rd – 5.4 miles

1/1/2021 Gunpowder South Trail (white) – Highland Trail – Gunpowder South Trail – track back

Elevation gain: 745ft

Location: small parking area is on Masemore rd. but there additional street side parking up and down the road

17701 Masemore rd. Parkton, MD 21120

☔️

This trails is one of my all time favorite. (There is another post about this back in 9/8/2019.)

(FYI : there are two more trails on the other side of the road.)

The scenery of the river is absolutely beautiful! Today suppose to rain but I am being optimistic to make it back before it starts (weather will prove me wrong). I am not sure who made this sign when getting on the trail….

….but it doesn’t reflect the actual name of the trail. Be careful when next to river, this path is narrow and slippery when wet. I’ve planned to head up all the way to the dam following the Gunpowder but changed my mind thinking I want to enjoy the river’s beauty on the way back. So we are leaving this trail to jump on Highland Trial heading West.

Slight uphill from here to reach the ridge for about a half a mile….

….then downhill again through an abrupt direction change while jumping over a tiny creek. Uphill again until we reach the power lines where winter is more visible thanks to windier conditions.

From here we continue on a spacious excess road, covered in some sort of black gravel.

Less then a half mile later we would cross Falls Rd. but since AllTrails shows 2 more possible trails to our left we go to investigate. I would love to add the “promised” 1.2 miles but after wasting 20 minutes looking for the none existing paths we head back to Highland Trail. We shortly reach the intersection of Gunpowder South where we turn left staying on the ridge. View of the river is peeking through the woods.

In a quarter of a mile after descending again we skip and hop over a small creek feeding into Gunpowder. The terrain is sort of challenging through the downhill and on both sides of the brook.

Mag is visible on the bottom 😉

Several small rapids pepper the creek, along with funky looking small Pear-shaped puffball fungi.

We turning left again when reaching the river, continue on Fisherman’s Trail. There are lots of spots to take a break and enjoy the water while heading North towards Prettyboy Dam. It’s less than 0.5 mile away and is clearly visible.

Are we there yet?

On our left the hillside is mostly invisible thanks to the densely grown evergreen Mountain Laurel. The leaves resembling those of Rhododendrons and in only extreme cold or drought would they fall off. I absolutely love the small parachute looking flowers in the spring.

The dam is getting closer as the falling water’s sound is getting louder. Even in this dreary weather the scenery is magical.

By the time we get to the dam it’s starts drizzling. Not a good sign considering that it’s cold as well. I have nothing to cover Mag with so after taking several shots of the dam I make a quick plan to head back.

I don’t know about you mom….

Fastest way seems to be to hike up next to the dam’s lookout – it is car accessible through Prettyboy Dam road – and quickly catch up to Gunpowder South trail through the forest.

Not recommending! By the time I actually realize that the trail is none existent it’s too late to turn back. We tumble around fallen trees and autumn leaves while slowly descend back towards the river. When we finally closing in on it I also realize that those densely grown Mountain Laurels are impossible to get through. There are a couple of other crazy people a few feet from us but we cannot reach to them. Dang. Spending another 20 minutes finding a clearing at least provides me with a photo opportunity.

We are finally back on the trail, moving as fast as possible. Cannot ignore this amazing setting tho, I snap one more pic.

By the time we reach the second crossing at Gunpowder South it’s starts raining for real. Following Fisherman’s trail would put us in danger I feel since the temperature is close to freezing. Deciding on run-hike back up where we came from following the white trail, through Falls road and the power line clearing, down and back up on Highland trail.

I am at least glad that I am in semi fit shape. We make it back considering the circumstances pretty fast, even running into another misanthrope girl on our way., heading the opposite direction. I also would very much enjoy being out here by myself if not for worrying for Mag. At the crossing of Fisherman’s trail I spy this little ceramic bird tucked away in the bushes.

In a few more minutes we are back at our car – her name is Icicle….coincidence? – but still have to be careful since the parking area is an ice rink. Drying Mag is a priority then de-icing the car and finally documenting our hike.

While we get warm sitting inside our vehicle a family of four pulls up with a dog in tow. They spend about two minutes in the freezing rain trying to find a trail then decide to retreat back in the car against the dog’s will. And I thought I was crazy….

On the bright side….supposedly I’ve burnt 1300 calories! Starving tho. Let’s go home and have some lunch.

Buh-bye!

Appalachian Trail – Blackburn Trail Center – 3 miles

12/27/2020 Appalachian Trail Spur – Appalachian Trail – View lookout – AT for a small bit – track back through Rindt Trail

Elevation gain: 620.1 ft

Location: 34899 Appalachian Trail Rd., Round Hill, VA 20141

🥶

It is a very loooooong (I would say 1 mile) drive to the trailhead from Woodgrove Rd., uphill from half way….thankfully all of us drive 4×4 cars. It’s a cold day with ice forming on the creek’s surface running next to the road. I am just glad the winding route is not icy. Even without wintery conditions, letting on-coming traffic go is interesting, to say the least.

Since the trailhead is a well kept secret the parking is tiny. Actual spaces are for about 6 cars/trucks but a few more can be squeezed around with sensibility. We brought the crowds I guess because by the time we park and get out, the small lot is full already. A few more cars pulling up behind us.

Uphill hiking starts or rather continues from our cars, passing Blackburn Trail Center.

A nice couple actually resides here and just getting home. We stop to exchange a few words then head up the stone steps. Up on top is a partially covered view awaits us of the valley below.

We are on the Appalachian Trail now, bordering West Virginia (white trail).

Signs are informing us of the possible routs we could take. Since we have company today I just make a mental note….

Up on the ridge there is no elevation until we leave the lookout. The view is of the NW Shenandoah River snaking just below the tree line.

After getting back on the main trail we head North for less then a mile on a descending path. Since the woods are dormant there is not a lot to see but I still get a glimpse of this cool looking sap.

At one point we turn around to head back unfortunately. At least it’s now a slight uphill so we still get our recommended exercise. We taking the first lefty – Rindt trail – back towards the campground.

I am not a fan of downhill hiking but here thankfully natural stone steps lining the way making our march easier. Definitely better for my knees.

There several elevated platforms built here for tents.

We are back at our cars in a jiffy. This was really a shortish hike for us but we are still very happy to get out at least.

Happy Mag

Map as follows.

Thank you for stopping by. See you around!

Patapsco Valley State Park (XIII) – Hilton Area – 7.8 miles

11/28/2020 Forest Glen Trail – Sawmill Branch Trail – Buzzards Rock Trail – Grist Mill Trail – Buzzards Rock Reroute – noname trail through Ilchester Rock lookout – Buzzards Rock Trail – Sawmill-Ilchester Connector – Hilltop Connector – noname trail crossing S. Hilltop Rd. – several noname trails – Charcoal Trail – Santee Branch Trail – Pigs Run Trail – exit through the Youth Group Campground loop

Elevation gain: 892ft

Location: 1201-1299 Hilton Ave. Catonsville, MD 21228

🐺

We came across this entrance while hiking from the S. Rolling Road parking back in April (4/19/2020). Even tho – in my opinion – it’s pretty late (just after 9 AM) there are barely anyone in the parking.

I’ve counted at least 3 separate – now open – parking areas within this entrance. Several additional lots are closed at this time. Just within here there are 5 campgrounds (Bannaker, Barney, Leonard, Pindell and Hilton Youth). Two additional campgrounds are within the Charcoal trail. It’s another fantastic family oriented part of Patapsco Valley State Park.

We walk up to the Forest Glen trailhead to start today’s adventure. Just a beautiful, sunny day!

The trail starts out as a slithering snake, winding through the forest. Soon we start a slight descent toward one of the many creeks feeding into Patapsco.

Spending a few minutes here for Mag’s enjoyment to make sure he smells everything in our close vicinity. After jumping over to Sawmill Branch Trail (red) our hike continues uphill from the small gorge. This is an absolutely beautiful portion of our hike and we even come across a small but magical waterfall.

We take our time to discover the creek-bed, hopping from boulder to boulder, getting as close as possible to the cascading water.

We get our cue to head on when a few people show up to take their pics of the rapids. The trail here is tricky, filled with roots and rocks. I need to be careful with Mag running ahead chasing new smells. We are above the creek again, looking down from a 30 feet drop to a small bend.

We take two more opportunities within the next stretch to hunt for rocks with great success. Mag finds the biggest one to take a break on.

Moving on continuing towards North, rewards us with another small linn before we reach a trail crossing. Here the brook pools above the trail giving me a small challenge to reach these dramatic boulders.

After snapping some photos however, we cross back over to continue up on Sawmill Branch. A jogger with a dog in front of us encourages Mag to speed up. We fast forward to the next section where we finally lose the dog and his scent. We are on the top of this particular hill without a view. Turning left towards Buzzard Rock Trail (yellow) leads us to another small parking area. From here on, the trail is very generous, taking us back down towards Patapsco.

It’s an almost straight shot on the top of this ridge to Bloedes Dam Viewpoint. Down below us is the glistening river.

The downhill from here is very challenging and slippery, even tho it ends in a wooden staircase. Several times a have to rely on holding onto trees, otherwise I would slip. Be careful!

To get to the river we have to walk through this tunnel underneath the CXS train tracks. There are several of them on Grist Mill Trail connecting all the paths. They all dating back to the 1800s.

All these tunnels connect to Grist Mill Trail which runs right next to Patapsco. We turn right and head down to the rocky beach within a few hundred feet.

Even though I usually try to stay away from this mainly busy trail, today there are barely anyone out on it. I think people are still getting accustomed to the temperature change.

We pass on hiking up on Drugs Trail since it seems like a 45% uphill. Guy coming down on it makes me think I don’t want to roll back from the middle. Maybe a hundred feet away there is another, much easier connection to Buzzards Rock Reroute Trail. Even though the elevation change is obvious by the time we reach the top, it’s barely recognizable through the one foot wide snaking path. As soon as we are on the North side the wind is crazy! I try to take a pic of the walking bridge below us but it comes out as just a million branches.

Can you spot the pedestrian in the middle of the bridge?

I think we get to Ilchester Rocks faster with the back wind pushing us. Exactly below us is the train-tunnel connecting to the bridge carrying the CSXs over the river. Running up the generously sized wooden steps give us an extra workout.

On the top we turn left and continue on the lower trail closer to the edge. Shortly, it takes a 90 degree turn to the right taking us through a small parking area. The other side is Sawmill-Ilchester Connector Trail. It crosses S. Hilltop Rd. beyond yet another small parking area, becoming Hilltop Connector. After crossing back again we go too far at a T and after hopping over a tiny bridge….

….in about a quarter of a mile, the scenery seems familiar. Uurrggg, we have to turn back until we reach the T again and follow the path on the right. Eventually after crossing 3 or 4 small creeks we do a big U, heading south. We end up losing the trail here for a bit caused by flooding, maybe.

Funky how a small creek can swallow up then disappear again within a few hundred feet. This inviting pool makes me wanna jump in. Crystal clear water shimmers bordered with boulders.

Our path abruptly takes a turn and start going uphill. On the top we take a water break and a pano.

When getting to Charcoal Trail I choose to hike the longest route around a now closed parking and campsite. Yellow and orange color codes mix on this trail.

We are getting closer to end of our hike. I can tell because we are running into more and more people. Santee Branch Trail becomes Pig Run (purple) after running parallel to the paved road leading into the “abandoned” parking area.

Cutting through the campgrounds is a small shortcut to finish up about 10 minutes early. I can spend that time to check Mag for ticks.

Hope to see you out there! And never forget….we only have one Mother Earth.

Patapsco Valley State Park (XII) – Old Court rd. – 8.3 miles

11/22/2020 Paved trailhead – Thru Trail (white) – lower Thru Trail following Patapsco River towards North – Chevrolet Trail – Quarry Trail – Church Trail – Joe’s Trail – Quarry Trail – Paved trailhead

Elevation gain: 554ft

Approximate address: 10968-10992 Old Court rd. Woodstock, MD 21163

Latitude 39.331897 / Longitude -76.869958

🎃

We are back on Old Court Rd. to follow Thru Trail towards North this time. Even tho it’s early and only a few cars are parked on the side of the road, I park our car far away from the entrance. I feel like accidental crashes here are less possible.

After approaching the paved trailhead – and letting about 10 bikers go ahead – we yet again take the first opportunity on our left to leave it. I like natural trails more, even though both would lead us to the split of Quarry and Thru trails.

Entering the trails

After splashing through a small creek we keep to the left and….

….almost immediately hit the “beach”.

The Old Court Rd. bridge in the distance

Following the shore for a minute leads us to a pretty cool discovery. Thousands of tiny crawfish packed against each other trying to find their way to their next chapter in life.

After getting back on the trail, within a few hundred feet it splits again even tho it does not show on AllTrails. We keep left again climbing a slight hill up onto an overlook above the river bend.

The lookout

The elevation continues beyond the cliff than while downhill, the scenery turns into more of a pulp fiction setting. The path changing between just a foot to a wide double path, scattered with fallen trees and slippery rock formations. Crawling under limbs and pushing Mag up on vertical boulders makes this portion somewhat challenging.

It only lasts for a short while, until we come across a clearing through the forest. We have been on the other side before and my mind wonders…. “If only I could take a picture of ourselves when we were there, I would wave to my future self.” (5/31/2020 Hoco Thru Trail).

Crossing the clearing reunites is with the main character of this chapter, Thru Trail so we hop back on it to continue our tale.

By the way….following the clearing to the East could be used as a cut through connecting to Quarry Trail. This move would cut our hike more than a mile short. That’s a no go for us! See! We would have missed this beaver chomp if not staying long this path….

Beaver marks

In a short while we come across Horse Hockey Up and Down Trail on our right which is a loop coming back to Thru Trail within 0.3 mile ahead of us. We stay close to the water to enjoy it as much as possible. Faster than a rocket ship we find ourselves at the joining of North Branch Patapsco to Patapsco River and another wonderful, long beachy area.

Across there is another past hike we have done back on 4/4/2020, the McKeldin Switchback Trail. Highly recommend it!

North Patapsco is super low, we could cross it at several different locations. At one point we are in the middle of the riverbed and I recognize a boulder we’ve sat on photographing Canada Geese lazily swimming towards us, back in April.

By the time we return to the trail we have reached the forth and final bend of the river on this hike. This is our Northern most point and we slowly start heading back towards South and away from Patapsco. Before the woods swallow us again I hear a Kingfisher then for a split second I also get a glimpse of it fly over the river. What a day!

We meet our first “caravan” of people on this portion before we hike up to a plateau bordering private property just before Chevrolet Trail.

This is when I notice the small pond aka Quarry on the map and decide to head that way. We come across this haunted Chevy while in the forest.

I could only guess that the theme changes

The view from above the quarry is absolutely wonderful. We almost end up circling the small body of water.

Above
Water level

I chose Church Trail to finish the last leg of our hike. This makes our loop a bit longer than just following Quarry Trail straight back down. Even though it seems like we are in the middle of the woods nearby traffic from Old Court Rd. is already seeping through the forest unfortunately. It also seems like we are below BWI’s or Dullas’s flight path.

Idyllic Church Trail

At a tiny bridge across a tiny creek we attempt a cut through trail which within 30 feet disappears and even though I try to follow it, we end up turning back when I spot hunter’s crow’s nests settled across a field. Better be safe than sorry….we are turning back.

It’s funny how a bird – a Bluejay maybe – can sound like a crying baby in the middle of the woods.

By the time we catch up with Quarry trail again, two water towers peek through the forest. They belong to Woodstock Job Corp Center, according to the map.

While looping around this facility – way below – we come across this beautiful waterfall, cascading over a possibly hundred year old broken retaining wall.

Passing by this little beauty, our next view is anything but sight for sore eyes. Barrels, tires, rusted cars, metal objects, appliances…. It’s a disgrace.

How no one is accountable for any of this for decades?

By the time I get over my tirade we are back to the river, splashing through yet again the tiny creek at Thru Trail, “racing” other people to the finish line. Funny enough the bike squad that passed us when getting on the trailhead when we started is back as well.

We climb back to the car avoiding the road, staying inside of the guardrail. After cleaning Mag and taking off my boots I take a map screen shot, then we had back home.

Wonderful hike as always! Minus the trash….

So, remember….

Thank you for reading. Hope to see you on one of the trails….

Gunpowder Falls State Park – Belair Road – 4.2 miles

11/8/2020 Lost Pond Trail – noname Trail loop North from Big Gunpowder Falls – caught up with Sawmill Trail – back on Lost Pond Trail

Elevation gain: 262 ft

🍁

I was having a hard time – again – to find parking initially coming here but while on Belair rd. signs for Gunpowder Falls State Park are clearly marked. I had to pick up my girlfriend from our meeting spot from up the road – small parking lot full of cars at Little Gunpowder Falls on Rt1 – then head back to this bigger lot to start our hike – across from Gunpowder Lodge -.

The first mile or so is easy-peasy, following the river on Lost Pond Trail. Took several small breaks on the occasional sandy/muddy beaches for Mag’s enjoyment.

Chris – my friend – requested a shorter distance so when we get to the rocky portion on the river after spending about 10 minutes hopping from boulder to boulder and taking pictures we head up the hill on noname trail towards Mt. Vista rd.

Absolutely beautiful portion of the trail

Basically yapping all the way while following AllTrails map – this is a catching up hike – we still end up losing sight of the trail at a creek’s overwash and by accident I even turn off the app…. The disconnect clearly visible on the end map.

After finding our way back to the trail, now we are on Sawmill – yellow – trail, heading back down to the river, catching back up with the Lost Pond trail going NW.

We lose the trail yet again at the end but have no fear because there are some pretty steep looking stairs next to the bridge taking us up back to our car.

Overall nice little walk even though Mag and I will have to come back to enjoy the whole loop all the way down to Rachel rd.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t forget!